Oil is a staple for most cooks, but not the kind you get from olives, avocados, or coconuts. Crude oil and natural gas also play a huge role in many kitchens across the country. Oil and gas we use for energy is also integral to the food we cook, the tools used to prepare our food, our storage containers, floors and counter-tops, as well as many other products in our kitchen that contain petroleum derivatives.
In kitchens across the country, natural gas or propane are commonly used for ovens and stoves to provide an instantaneous flame that is easy to control various heat levels that can save money – up to 30 percent – over that of electric heating elements. Many professional chefs and home cooks prefer to cook with gas over electric because of the advantages that the range provides.
Not only is natural gas an abundant natural resource that is widely used in large cities throughout the U.S., with nearly half of all U.S. households using natural gas for heating and other residential uses. One of the reasons that this option is so cheap is that it needs very little refinement from its raw form. Propane is also an efficient burning fuel refined from crude oil that is easily shipped and stored in areas that don’t have the infrastructure to deliver natural gas. Reliance on heating oil is primarily used in the Northeast, where 22 percent of households use propane to heat their homes.
While stoves are the most obvious use of oil and natural gas, these energy sources permeate our kitchens in many other forms. From cookware to coffee pots and utensils to dish sponges, the kitchen is full of plastics that we use derived from oil and natural gas.
Feeling hungry, how about a snack? Plastic packages help keep our food fresh as it travels from where it was made, to the store, to our homes, and eventually into our hands as we take in the preserved product for nourishment. Items like yogurt cups, egg cartons, squeezable condiment bottles, and drink containers are all possible because of oil.
Even parts of many appliances are formed from plastics. When you make your coffee in the morning and grab the milk from the fridge or stir in your favorite creamer, you are probably touching something that was once oil. Oh and don’t forget to clean up after your meal! The various types of storage containers help to keep food fresh longer because of their air and liquid impermeability. Don’t forget to clean up the stove with the right cleaning fluids, toss the scraps in your trash bags, use the scrub brush on those plates, and sweep up with your broom – all of which contain some element of petroleum.
While most of us dream of luxury marbles and colored granite, many Americans who are budget minded or live in large multi-family apartments have installed vinyl flooring. This durable material is cheap to produce, relatively environmentally friendly, and, you guessed it, made possible through the use of petroleum. The moldable and easy to dye nature of plastics make it a versatile choice in such applications. Laminate counter tops are also made possible by plastics and offer a durable and easy to clean surface for a fraction of the cost of higher end materials.
The versatility of oil based products is amazing and has led to them playing a huge role in modern life. Not only does it get us to the store and back, it also simplifies much of our experience in the kitchen. Many of the products we have discussed today can also be recycled or reused so this makes them an environmentally friendly option when disposed of properly. If used responsibly, petroleum products make life better and can continue to do so for years to come.